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WEB POSTED 08-13-2002
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Slaves helped build White House and Capitol

by William Reed
—Guest Columnist—

(FinalCall.com) -- A 1790s U.S. Treasury Department note read: "Please pay to John Hurie the balance due for the hire of Negro Emanuel for the year 1794." Few entries in America’s history ledger note the uncompensated economic contributions of enslaved Africans in the U.S. as John Hurie’s request for payment for his hired slave. The government paid Mr. Hurie, but now some of today’s Blacks want Emanuel’s descendents to be compensated for their ongoing plight on these shores.

Government’s debt to Blacks has been pending a long time. On December 2, 1863, when the "Freedom" statue was hoisted atop the dome of the U.S. Capitol, it was due to the workmanship of a slave at the Bladensburg (Maryland) Foundry, Philip Reid. He was responsible for the bronze casting that is a symbol of freedom around the world.

Between 1790 and 1863, artisans like Reid comprised half the workforce that built the White House and the Capitol. America’s Capitol City was built on the backs of slaves: Those who worked Virginia’s quarries, digging and transporting the stones to Washington; performing work required to place the cut stones on the walls; digging the trenches and ditches; and hauling lumber and other materials.

Over a 70-year period, slaves toiled from dawn to dusk building the temples to represent a country were "all men are created equal." Slaves cleared the trees and brush for the Mall and Washington boulevards that lead to the seat of a government "with liberty and justice for all."

Reid & Company never received a fair day’s pay, but the Irish and German immigrant workers who labored beside them were paid from $4.65 to $10.50 a week. Enslavers like Hurie and Reid’s owner Clark Mills received $5 a week for each of their slave’s labors.

On August 17, 2002, a million Black Americans are scheduled to convene at the U.S. Capitol to demand compensation for the works of Reid, and other ancestors who built the Capitol, and the country’s capitalistic system. Even though Colin Powell and Condeleezza Rice won’t be among them, people who feel America still owes them a debt will press their case for Black reparations. Bryan Gumbel may be missing, but those attending will be standing up for contemporary victims of "America’s Holocaust."

Before Phillip Reid’s ancestors reached America, 15 to 25 million other Africans were killed in the Middle Passage. Subsequently, enslavement of Blacks in America lasted 246 years; followed by a century of legal racial segregation and discrimination. Though America refuses to apologize to African Americans for slavery and its vestiges, the periods constitute the world’s longest running crime against humanity.

Though the Blacks in corporate America won’t be totally represented, those that do come will speak for millions of Blacks who remain economically and socially disabled by American slavery and the century of government-embraced racial discrimination that followed it. Marchers don’t expect Department of Justice’s Larry Thompson to be there, but many there will decry the disproportionate number of Black men populating America’s prisons. They’ll be there for remedies for the high rate of birth defects among impoverished Black mothers, educational opportunities, and discuss why Black unemployment rates double that of Whites year after year.

As a result of the ravages of slavery and racial strictures that followed it, Blacks in America have been consigned to the Nation’s economic bottom. A static economic gap has existed for Blacks since the Emancipation Proclamation.

On August 17th, an aggrieved community of slave descendents will gather beneath the stature of Freedom to that centuries-old debts to them will be addressed once and for all.

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